Q. My mother often has questions or problems with her computer that I could fix easily if I could sit in front of the machine and see her screen, but she lives hundreds of miles away. Isn’t there a way to do tech support easily over the internet? We both use Windows.
A. Programs that allow you to connect to someone else’s computer to provide technical support are readily available — TeamViewer, Zoho Assist or even Microsoft’s Windows Remote Desktop utility are some of the options. For simple online aid, however, you may not need to download extra software on either computer.
Microsoft has included a built-in Windows Remote Assistance utility with the operating system since Windows XP, although the feature was supplanted by Quick Assist in Windows 10. No matter the name, the connection process is similar: You either send an invitation requesting help to someone else, or someone sends you a request for aid.
Once the electronic invitation (or, in Quick Assist, a security code) is exchanged, the person doing the help is given permission to temporarily see the screen and take control of the computer over a network connection. Once the remote assistance session is finished, full control of the PC is returned to the owner.
If both computers involved are using Windows 10, you can use the Quick Assist tool. Go to the Start menu and choose Windows Accessories and then Quick Assist. Choose the Get Assistance or Give Assistance option, and follow the instructions on the screen to link the two PCs.
For older versions of Windows, the person needing the help may have to set up the computer to be able to send assistance invitations first. To do so, go to the Search box and enter “remote assistance.” You should see an item called “Allow Remote Assistance Invitations to be sent from this computer.” Turn on the check box next to that option in the window that appears.
To send an invitation, return to the Search box, enter “remote assistance” again and select the option that begins, “Invite someone to connect to your PC and help you, or offer to help someone else.” Follow the instructions on the screen to ask someone you trust for aid. Select the Use Easy Connect option and send a temporary password to your helper; once you use Easy Connect the first time, your helper’s name appears as a contact.
On the helper side, use the Search box with “remote assistance,” choose the wordy “Invite someone to connect to your PC …” option and “Help someone who has invited you,” and then use Easy Connect to tap into the other computer or select the contact name of the person needing help. Once the computers are connected, you should be able to see and control the other PC from your machine.
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